Part of the learning curve for Matt Harvey is to understand when less is more.
The Bisons starter had a rough first inning with some key mistakes. But resiliency is one of his strengths and he came back to record 11 strikeouts, helping to anchor Buffalo in a 5-3 win over the Gwinnett Braves in front of 8,754 at Coca-Cola Field Friday night.
With two outs in the first, Harvey gave up back-to-back home runs to Stefan Gartrell and Ernesto Mejia. He then settled in, striking out four straight en route to the most strikeouts by a Herd pitcher at home in nine years.
"He's the type of guy on the mound who is really aggressive," manager Wally Backman said. "He gets really upset when things happen like that and he almost has to step back off the mound to try and re-gather himself. Matt will get in a situation sometimes where [he's throwing] harder, harder, harder. A lot of times you have to slow down and step off the mound. That's one of the things Matt's learning and I think he's done a good job learning that. I think that's why he rebounded and was able to pitch the way he did the second through the sixth."
"Early in the game, in the first inning especially, you come out and your arm feels good and your body feels good," Harvey said. "You have to step out and be more a pitcher than a thrower. That's something I've learned. I wished I brought more of that into the first inning, but I settled in. My curve ball was working and I threw some good changeups. I was trying to keep the ball down."
Harvey (4-1) pitched six innings giving up three runs on four hits. He walked three and struck out 11. Those 11 strikeouts were the most by a Bison pitcher since Dillon Gee struck out 11 in the first game of a doubleheader at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Aug. 28, 2010. It was the most by a Bison pitcher at home since Jason Bere fanned 11 on May 17, 2003.
Meanwhile, first baseman Valentino Pascuccio moved up in the record books for the Herd as he blasted a pair of two-run homers to power the Herd's offense. His two-run shot to center field in the third gave the Herd a 3-2 lead. His two-run shot in the fifth, which went over the highway in left field, broke a 3-3 tie to give Buffalo the lead for good.
Those two blasts gave him 48 career home runs and sole possession of seventh place on the Bison's All-Time home run list of the Modern Era. He is one behind Jason Cooper who had 49.
"You can't miss with a pitch against him. He's strong," Backman said. "He can hit the ball to all fields. He's a great player to have on your ball club."
Outfielder Vinny Rottino saw his 20-game hit streak come to an end. He went 0 for 5, leaving seven runners on base. He reached in the fifth on a fielder's choice, scoring a run on Pascucci's second homer.
The Bisons continue their homestand by opening a four-game series with the Indianapolis Indians tonight at 7:05 p.m. Jeurys Familia (4-1, 4.06 ERA) is scheduled to start for the Herd against lefty Justin Wilson (3-3, 3.14).